SA Rainbow Advocacy Alliance congratulates Prince Alfred College on supporting a transgender student at their school with her transition as reported in the media today. But we look forward to the day when such stories are not considered newsworthy because they’re simply the norm.
For an all-boys school to take responsibility for the inclusion and protection of a transgender student is a great step forward in the right direction. What matters most is giving trans and gender diverse school students respect, choice, and control. For some students attending a single-sex school, it may be important to find a new school that aligns with their gender. For others, as it appears in this case, students may choose to remain in a familiar environment with those who know them. Both choices are equally valid and do not invalidate the students’ gender identity.
What this story shows is that the inclusion of trans and gender diverse students is widely supported by families and school staff alike, and that it need not be a difficult or arduous process. South Australian communities need to love and support trans and gender diverse young people, just as they would for any other young person. It’s that simple.
We hope all school leaders take this opportunity to think about how they can practically support their trans and gender diverse students. This could look like supporting trans and gender diverse students to use the bathrooms and change rooms that match their gender identity, use their chosen name or pronouns and wear clothes that match their gender identity.
We must also remember that including trans and gender diverse young people isn’t just about feelings of acceptance. Bullying, harassment and feeling unsafe at school are very real experiences for trans and gender diverse students that result in higher rates of absenteeism and poor mental health. By promoting inclusion and acceptance of trans and gender diverse young people we can flip the switch from gender dysphoria to gender euphoria.
While we hope that stories like this will contribute to constructive discussions, we are also mindful of the privacy and wellbeing of the student concerned. Every trans person is different and their individual wants and needs must be respected. No one person’s experience can be used as a one size fits all guide to inclusion.
The importance of the message this school is sending is hard to overstate. It says, not just to this student, but to all young people who may be trans or exploring their gender identity that they belong in a school community and that belonging doesn’t change because of who they are or how they present.
Trans and gender diverse children have been telling us who they are for milenia. It is up to the adults in their life to listen, respect, and protect them.